Ryan Messenger took one last look out the front door of his third story New York apartment building before gently easing it closed. Not content that he hadn’t missed someone lurking behind him in the long apartment hallway, he opened the only thing between himself and the outside world one more time, as if to satisfy a case of OCD he didn’t really have, then took the time to secure the multiple locks. Such was the paranoia in New York anyhow but today Ryan couldn’t shake the feeling that he had been followed to his 45th Street abode. The light from the kitchen made a path from the front door back to it's source but that didn’t stop Ryan from tripping over Patches, his cat, as he made his way towards the refrigerator. Ryan, on edge from the sense of being followed anyhow, screamed a couple expletives at his cat of 7 years before finally making it into the kitchen. Ryan was culinary challenged so his kitchen was really only a kitchen in the sense that it had a stove, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a set of knives given to him as a housewarming gift. In reality it was an over-sized beer storage center and he went for the central hub now. He reached past the milk that could have easily passed for cottage cheese if you saw it or maggots having a cookout if you smelled it, and started to grab the last Sam Adams Lager. Just then the phone rang cutting through the silence of the dwelling like a surgeon’s scalpel cuts skin. Ryan, startled, hastily reared his head and smacked the back of it on the bottom of the freezer. He cursed under his breath and went over to the wall to answer it. Why he still had a landline phone was beyond him. Ryan only ever used his smart phone so, unless he just wanted to call 911 and not reach the Highway Patrol, his home phone was completely unnecessary. He looked at the phone’s caller ID. “UNKOWN CALLER’. “Hello?” Ryan answered. Long silence. “Hello?”
Finally after another short absence of noise, the silence on the other end was broken. “LIARRRRRRRR!” “What? Who is this?” Ryan demanded. “LIARRRRRRRRRR!” This time the word was emitted in more of a shriek that caused Ryan to drop the phone and back pedal towards the dining area. He tripped over the rug in the doorway. The turquoise colored Navajo styled floor covering caused Ryan to fall and hit his back on the table. Ryan fell to the floor in pain. He scooted towards the wall and leaned against it, giving momentary relief to his lower back area. The comfort didn’t last long. The word liar was being repeated over the phone’s handset, loud enough for Ryan to still hear though the phone was eight feet away from where he now sat. His heart began to beat fast and loud. THUMP, THUMP, THUMP. He couldn’t calm down. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!! Only that wasn’t his heart. It was a booming sound coming from the front door that seemed to echo his over-revved heart. As Ryan made his way to the door he flipped on all the lights along the way, revealing what could not be seen before. A mostly clean apartment, decorated in a southwestern theme that matched the rug that had seemingly grabbed him in the kitchen. For someone who would consider himself not clumsy, Ryan’s two mishaps in just minutes were a bit unnerving. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. He didn’t have time to consider his new found shortcomings. A look toward the door terrified him. Hadn’t he locked it already? There was now nothing to keep whatever was banging on the door from coming in. Perhaps it was in already. The thought nearly stopped him in his tracks. Ryan in an instant thought it better to be safe than sorry and ran to lock the door.
The third set of booming knocks came just as Ryan had finished locking the third lock. He turned, bolted away from the door and clambered over the couch. As he looked back toward his only legitimate exit, the lights in his small, overpriced New York apartment flickered then went out. Ryan had had enough. He ran to his room where he kept a 9mm pistol in the upper right corner of his closet, above where his extensive comic book collection resided. He reached up, grabbed the Px4 Storm and verified that it was ready to go. Confident that he was now prepared to take on whoever had been following him, Ryan retraced his steps back through the darkened dwelling. A light orange glow had settled in the living room from what was left of the daylight as well as some scattered outside lighting. Was his the only apartment that didn’t have power? Ryan flipped the hallway switch to be certain. Nothing. He continued into the living room and his right foot caught the corner of his computer chair. The chair swiveled and bumped the keyboard tray causing the mouse to move slightly. Ryan’s computer monitor came to life. A black background with the word “ADULTERER” in bright red was now displayed on the unpowered screen. “How in the-“? The thought only dwelled in his synapses for an instant as he caught movement out of his left eye. Ryan turned quickly and brought his Beretta pistol to bear and squeezed the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was promptly replaced by the shattering of his street facing window. Ryan’s heart skipped a beat in panic. He knew that he had to get out of this apartment. The walls seemed to be closing in all around him. He needed to regain his composure. Ryan finally settled down a bit and got control of his thoughts. Who was this that was after him? Who would be calling a good person like Ryan a liar and an adulterer? Ryan’s reassurance of his own goodness gave him new buoyancy. Whoever it was had to have the wrong guy. And with this new confidence that his pursuer had to be following the wrong trail, a fresh found courage was born. Ryan called upon this audacity and proceeded to the front door and unlocked it.
Ryan slowly lost his nerve again as he pulled the door back and extended his gun out into the pitch black hallway. If there was someone or something there, he wouldn’t have been able to see. He couldn’t even see the polymer gun in his hand for the black background. Ryan had been so flustered that he had forgotten about the tactical light that hung from the Storm’s picatinny rail. Light filled the hallway as Ryan switched it to the ON position. No immediate threat directly in front of him. Ryan came out from the relative safety that the half open door had afforded him and he entered the hallway. He swung the deadly light in both directions. There was nothing in either direction that he could see. Figuring the elevator to not be in working condition, he went to the right. He proceeded cautiously to the end of the hallway where the emergency stairs, he hoped, waited to grant his escape from whatever predator was after him. Ryan reached the door, pushed down on the handle and tried to pull it open. The door did not budge though there were no locks or restrictions to be found. Ryan ran back towards his apartment using his tactical light to ensure that he stayed in the center of the hallway to avoid tripping over a potted plant or an obligatory “Welcome” mat. Past the door of his apartment he ran and stopped in horror as he realized the elevator was open and waiting for him. A lucky coincidence on any other day but with the power out it made Ryan’s skin become like gooseflesh. Finally he stepped in and pushed the button marked “L”. He was as low as he could get, yet he made the descent to be sure.
The doors slowly opened as a slight ding sound overcame the terrible Michael Bolton cover song. Maybe it was Kenny G. Either way he was glad to be free from the barrage on his ears. At least the music had momentarily distracted him from thinking about what was actually going on. Escape. He rounded the fountain in the lobby area and strode towards the front door. He slipped on something in the darkened lobby. It was still early, a little after 6pm, but Daylight Savings time was over and there was barely a hint of light coming in to help his vision. Re-establishing his footing, he shone the light to reveal a word written in red liquid. Murderer He turned quickly as he heard a sound from behind him where the elevator was. It had slammed shut. He panned the lobby with his gun, the light revealing the same word, murderer, written multiple times on every wall, on the floor, the ceiling and even on the fountain. Ryan wasted no more time. He ran towards the front double front doors and went through them with a crash, rolling nearly all the way to the street. He lost hold of his pistol somewhere between the doors and the curb so he went back to retrieve it before finally running East. He found a taxi cab with the engine running about a block down. The driver had probably had run into the corner liquor store for smokes. Ryan didn’t care why the driver was gone or where he was. He slid into the driver’s seat and took off. He drove in circles for a bit around the confined city roads before pulling over in front of the Mid Manhattan Library at Bryant Park.
He set the Px4 storm on the passenger seat and leaned his head back. Then the terror set in again. Whatever it is that is chasing him is not human. It couldn’t be! Ryan’s now wide eyes revealed to his brain the word “THIEF” which was scratched into the smelly cab’s roof liner just above his head! He bolted from the car in sheer panic and ran up the steps to the doors of the library. He had hoped some sort of safety would be waiting behind the entrance. Ryan must have forgotten that the library, which was normally open until 8pm, closed at 6pm on Saturdays. Safety would have to be found elsewhere. He turned back around to where he had left the taxi waiting but it was gone. Stolen? Vanished? Natural? Supernatural? What was going on? Ryan took off running through the park. His footsteps could hardly keep up with the pace of his heartbeat. His chest felt as if it would explode. That’s when he heard them. The sounds of footsteps close behind him. These ones were keeping up with his racy heart. That only meant one thing. Whatever or whoever it was, was gaining on him. “O my-“He didn’t have time to finish his blasphemous expletive. Fire erupted in front of Ryan. He had to stop regardless of what pursued him. As the wall of flame died down a piercing word came in from behind him. It sounded so horrible, like a million mosquitoes hitting a high powered bug zapper at once. “Blasphemer!!” Ryan bolted away from the sound, leaping over the settled down flame. As he looked down, he realized that the word blasphemer had not only been verbalized but it was also burnt into the nicely manicured park lawn.
The footsteps behind him started again. Ryan went for his hand gun. Maybe he could keep his pursuer at bay with a few warning shots. Ryan could have done just that if the Px4 was actually on his person. He had left it in the cab that had disappeared!! All hope was lost in Ryan’s mind. He made his way to the tall building in front of him still being pursued by who or whatever was chasing him. As impossible as it seemed, Ryan had to get away from this monster. In through the front door he went, up the stairwell, all the way to the roof. This was it. He had nowhere to go. Ryan rounded the edges of the top of the building looking for any alternatives. Across the skyline you could hardly see where the buildings ended and the cool night sky began. It was almost serene. Finally a billboard caught his eye. “Idolater” was the sole word written on the illuminated sign. The door to the stair well crashed closed. Ryan looked towards the only way back out that had just been closed off to him. The door had words written it. Liar. Adulterer. Murderer. Thief. Blasphemer. Idolater. Ryan had only a couple feet between him and the edge of the building. The footsteps were coming at him now in a slow, eerie, march of doom. Ryan must have misjudged how much room he had left on the perilous rooftop because his calves hit on the small wall that lined the top of this building’s roof. As Ryan stumbled he reached back to try to brace himself but could not. He went over and, as it always has since the beginning of time, gravity worked. Ryan flew towards the concrete below, now screaming. “I’m good!!” “I’m not guilty!!” He thought he could hear a final shout from his pursuer who looked down at Ryan, reaching out a hand as if he was there to save him the whole time. “I. Bear. Witness!” The ground was coming faster now.Ryan could see the cracks in the sidewalk. Nothing could save him now. Time. For. Impact.
Ryan’s head jerked back from the pillow as it hit, and then laid itself back down in the puddle of warm drool. Ryan shook off the experience, rolled over, and sat up in his bed. Who hasn’t had the dream where you are falling? The problem was that Ryan had had that dream every night for the past week after his best friend died at age 32. The realization that someone can die at any time had haunted him over this past 7 days. He saw his friend as invincible. He thought the same of himself. He knew better now. But the dreams. Tonight was the first night that the dream of falling had been accompanied by the chase. Ryan thought about that. After a moment’s reflection, he realized exactly who that pursuer was now. The Unknown Pursuer had revealed itself. Yesterday Ryan had sat and listened to a street preacher up on a box talking. The preacher talked about the exact words from Ryan’s dream. The man, about Ryan’s age talked about God’s Holiness and about Judgment. About how if you have told a lie, you are a liar and that all liars will have their part in the Lake of Fire according to the Bible. The preacher talked of how even lust was adultery and hatred was murder. No thief would inherit the Kingdom of Heaven and God will not hold anyone blameless who misuses His name. Ryan never argued that he had ever put God first in his life but he let the preacher know before heading home that he was a good person and was not guilty of breaking any Law of God though the evidence was clearly stacked against him. The pursuer in his dream was his conscience. There was no doubt about that in light of the conversation with the man on the street. The conscience is not something he could escape from because it’s inside him. Chasing him down from the inside and reminding him of his guilt. Letting Ryan know that the “all” in, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” applies to him as well as every other person in the world.
Ryan didn’t want to endure this haunting dream every night. The fall was bad enough but the chase. The chase was insufferable. It was terrifying to him. What had the preacher said Ryan needed to do? Repent and believe the Gospel? To turn from sin and trust that God sent His Son Jesus, fully God and fully man to live a perfect life and then die on the cross for Ryan’s sins. To believe that He rose again on the third day, defeating sin and death so that he could have eternal life and escape the punishment due to him in Hell. Ryan realized from the preacher’s words and through his dream that he wasn’t good enough to go to Heaven on his own merit. He had broken every one of God’s commandments and would indeed be guilty if he were to die and be judged today. His own conscience bore witness that he was guilty before a Holy God. He knew that now. Ryan turned from sin and trusted in Christ’s finished work on the cross. The dreams, nightmares really, stopped. Ryan was never chased by his conscience again. The Unknown Pursuer was still with Ryan but it was now unmasked and a welcome friend. God had taken his sin from him as far as the East is from the West. Sleep well Ryan Messenger. Sleep well.
English Standard Version (ESV)